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Drama school: The audition process

We spoke to:

Name: Clare Taylor

Currently studying: Theatre full time at VCA

Hey there you arty farty bean! My name’s Clare. I study Theatre full time at the VCA. 

So you’ve read my article on whether drama school is right for you, you’ve decided on the schools and course/s you’re interested in. Now you need to hop right to it and do your audition. Here’s how:


What are they looking for?

I’ll tell you right off the bat, they’re not looking for good actors. They’re looking for people who they can help become great actors and makers. You don’t need to be perfect, you need to be a right fit for the institution, trainable and with potential.


What is the paper work you need to fill out?

First, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork that asks you basic stuff along with questions about why you want to go to drama school etc.. while this isn’t weighted as heavily as the audition, pay attention. Give authentic, well-articulated answers. You’re an artist, so show off your mind and outlook.


Monolouges are a huge part of the audition, tell us about them?

Most likely you’ll have to prepare four monologues; two Shakespeare, and two Contemporary (Contemporary spans anywhere from Chekhov to present day). They’ll either let you choose whatever monologue you want, or they’ll have a set list of pieces to choose from.

  • Choose a monologue that challenges you.
  • Read the full play that your monologue is from.
  • Ya know….learn your lines.
  • Make sure your piece is within the time limit. It’s rude to go over.

Specifically for Shakespeare:

  • Look at rhythm and iambic pentameter (and google that if you don’t know what it is),
  • Understand the meaning of every single word you’re saying.
  • Find emotion in the vowels, thought in the consonants, and identify the argument your character is making so every line adds to that argument.

No Fear Shakespeare and a dictionary will be your absolute saviours.


What about your devised pieces?

Theatre making (as opposed to Acting- see my previous article for clarification!) courses will sometimes have you prepare something you’ve made yourself. My advice: just make something you’d pay to watch and you’d love to perform. If peeling PVA glue off your skin to Carmen Burana to make a ‘subversive theatre piece’ about ‘shedding the objectification of the female body’ makes you yawn or throw up that thickshake you had last Thursday…let someone else do it. Someone passionate will always pull the PVA-glue-carmen-burana-subversion trick better than you.

You’re not expected to be able to make perfect theatre yet, but you are expected to have an instinct, and to be a voice worth hearing.


What do we need to know about audition day?

Wear all black, comfortable clothing. You’ll be run through some kind of physical, mental and vocal warm up. This could be anything. Crab walking for 15 minutes?! Sure. CALM DOWN AND WARM UP, they’re not judging you at this point. Just be friendly and open.

You will usually be directed in some way, either at your preliminary audition or at your call back. What they want to see is that you can adapt. Plenty of people come in with a perfectly polished, beautiful piece of acting, but what they want isn’t a perfect, fully formed performance. They want somebody SENSITIVE, able and willing to change their behaviour according to scene partners, directors, new insights. So don’t get too attached to that little lip quiver you’ve been practising in the bathroom mirror that you’re going to do just before the last line.


Any pieces of last minute advice?

  1. Eat a slice of humble pie.

Most people at your audition have watched Oscar acceptance speeches and cried out of sheer, unadulterated ambition. Meryl Streep collects these tears and drinks them after her morning Chamomile tea.

AKA, you are not the only one there who reckons you’ve got the special something. In fact, everyone there thinks they’re special. Which, of course, renders all of you ordinary. Something way more important than your talent or ambition is going to get you in.


  1. Play the numbers game

If you can, audition for as many schools and courses as possible. Most likely, the place that wants you is going to be the place you should be, even if it’s not what you initially pictured. Auditioners will each teach you something new and different, and each audition will make you a stronger person and performer.


  1. Don’t think too hard

Being a good actor/theatre maker isn’t about neurosis or brunt effort, it’s about clarity and specificity of effort. Prepare but don’t psych yourself out, like, wanting to end it all because you just had some strawberry milk before an audition and LACTOSE IS BAD FOR YOUR VOCAL FOLDS!!!!


  1. Go see theatre

Especially if you’re auditioning for a theatre making course, you’re going to want to expand your views of what theatre actually is, and the types of performance possible. It’s not all about the hyper-naturalism we’ve grown accustomed to because of close up shots on Netflix shows. See independent theatre, high budget main-stage theatre, stand up comedy, slam poetry, performance art, music, dance, film…eat it all up.


  1. Be ready to learn

About yourself as a performer, about the craft you want to study, about the other people in your position. Think about what you made you like certain performances, what made you dislike others, how you felt while performing. Make the focus your experience and learning, not the auditioner’s opinions.


  1. Love it.

If you’ve decided to do these auditions, you clearly love this bat shit crazy thing we call the arts. That’s why you’ll cop doing a degree that’s 3 times the effort of most others to enter a profession where you’re barely paid, working your butt off while everyone says your calling is superfluous, getting rejected 6 times a week, and wanting to rip out your own eyelashes during tech runs. It’s also why what you have to say is valuable, why you’ll create worthwhile art, why you’ll be somebody productive and inspiring to work with. If they don’t let you into drama school, FUCK THEM!! But also, they’re probably right, this wasn’t the year for you, and you should come back.

Read about what life at drama school is really like.

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